These are the stories of people who reflect Colombia’s diversity and who are united by the pain wrought by the armed conflict, and through a shared hope for a true and lasting peace: “I think we all have a little bit of that beautiful madness that keeps us walking when everything around us is so insanely sane”. Julio Cortázar
We set off from Buenaventura one rainy morning heading to San Francisco, in the Naya river basin, in south-west Colombia. The crew on board was as eclectic as the sense of Colombia’s diversity: around 70 representatives of the Nasa, Sikuani, Jiw, Eperara Siapidara, Nonam and Wounaan peoples; mestizo small scale farmers from Putumayo, Meta and Cauca; Afro-descendants from Choco and Valle del Cauca; human rights defenders; a couple of professors from Chicago and a couple of architects. We travelled up the Pacific coast, turned into the river and headed upstream. The aquatic frontier was marked by powerful ocean waves that faded as we entered the river. After six hours’ travel, we reached our destination.
Over a period of three days, the second stage of the Open ‘Territorial subjects of peace with social justice’ Forum took place, in which participated the people we had travelled which. During this time, they had the opportunity to exchange and share experiences as well as focusing on significant topics such as participation and political rights, land and environment, gender and other identities, with participants aiming to replicate these contributions in their communities of origin and strengthening their organisational processes.
This proposal of the Community Network for Building Peace in the Territories (CONPAZ) was presented to the negotiating table in Havana between the Farc guerrilla movement and the Colombian government as well as to the peace process being prepared with the ELN guerrillas.
The forum closed on a high note with the inauguration of the south-western campus of the University for Peace; the first step of a larger challenge or ‘beautiful madness’: a total of 12 campuses will open in the territories to “generate, from the communities, a forum for knowledge about peace through the exchange of knowledge”. The building, set on a hill by the river, is a tribute to Juana Bautista Angulo, an Afro-Nayera woman, victim of torture and sexual violence, murdered on 14 April 2001 during the forced displacement caused by paramilitaries of the Calima Block, in the lower reaches of the Naya, under the orders of the former commander of the Army’s Third Brigade to “clear the path”.
Delphine and Mario wrote the stories for the ‘Beautiful madness’ after a trip to the Naya river basin in June 2016. During that journey they accompanied the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission and met with women and men from indigenous, Afro-descendant and farming communities from around Colombia, and witnessed the inauguration of the University for Peace’s first campus, the beginning of an initiative that seeks to generate initiatives that will bring peace to the territories.